Digital Humanities: The Tool of Neo-Liberalism? Some Thoughts

5 thoughts on “Digital Humanities: The Tool of Neo-Liberalism? Some Thoughts”

  1. As your point out and reiterate from our class discussion, the so-called digital humanities (DH) seems to be largely about garnering institutional attention and funding. Frankly, based on everything I’ve come across and read thus far, DH seems to be merely a ‘brand or marketing ploy’ (as others in class stated) consisting mostly of some new methodological approaches and unproven, if promising academic tools still ‘in beta’. Per Patrick’s comment in class, I see DH as a trend, its status as a coherent field of study quite dubious. It seems already dated. I would not be surprised to see DH fading from the the consciousness of the academy over the next 10 years or so. However, if I had to prognosticate, it is not difficult for me to imagine the methodologies and tools now falling under the DH umbrella continuing to evolve and develop, but integrated into the methodologies of other humanities fields. The ‘digital’ distinction likely will be shed from ‘the humanities’, which I think gets at the larger question: What will be the shape and scope of humanistic inquiry as the greater discipline continues to partner and collaborate with STEM and social sciences fields? Or, what does it mean when the qualitative and quantitative begin to seem as if they are beginning to bleed and blend into each other?

    1. Part of me feels like it’s a useless modifier. “What branch are you in?” “Oh, I’m in the /digital/ humanities.” Whereas, “humanities” still could have the same meaning.

      I understand that it’s probably a good thing to have on your CV, to denote that you’re technological savvy and that you are incorporating new and recent methods into your style of research. But like I said, it just feels gimmicky and hollow.

  2. Remember, though, that DH isn’t really a new thing, it’s just a new brand. Humanities computing has been around for quite some time before it was branded as DH (largely, it seems, because there was suddenly funding for it). DH is, in my understanding, the creation and implementation of digital tools for and within the humanities. In this respect, I can’t see it going anywhere. A humanistic approach to the creation of digital tools, and a humanistic attention paid to the use of digital tools, is what keeps humanists from being forced to use tools and procedures that are developed by and for corporations, governments, and the military. As long as humanists use digital tools (and, in the 21st century, I can’t imagine that will change any time soon) there will undoubtedly be scholars who critical attention is focused on those tools.

    I’m not sure how I feel about the comment that reads “The ‘digital’ distinction likely will be shed from ‘the humanities’.” Of course not all scholars will use digital methods to analyze humanistic texts, so I could see a distinction between those that do and those that do not persisting. However, I could certainly see the distinction of DH showing up more as “secondary interests” on CVs, becoming more of a verb explaining what some people do than a noun describing who people are (DHers is a common designation).

  3. Your experiences ring true with what I expect to be the norm over the next few years at least. As academia deals with rebalancing in the face of new methodologies being imposed upon it by shear ubiquity of technology, those willing to let go of historical approaches in order to open their hands to new ones stand to benefit.

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